My Letter to AA: RE: Their Travel Policy and being Stranded at JFK with family:

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by THREEA4ME, Dec 30, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    Thoughts/Comments appreciated:

    ====

    Hi –

    Before I begin, I want to clearly state how kind and accommodating everyone at AA has been, save one agent, and how much I appreciate their huge efforts.

    My story begins amidst a snowfall in Montreal. The weather was turning ominous on Thursday, Dec 27th and AA was placing travel notices for Montreal (YUL) and JFK. My wife, and two children and I were due to fly out on AA4444 at 5:55p connecting to AA185 at 9:30p on Saturday Dec 29th and I was concerned that, because of weather delays throughout the week, we would not make our connection. So I called the Explat Desk and indicated my concern that we would not make our connection at JFK and asked if she would kindly place us on the noon flight out of YUL on Dec 29th. The agent said that the AA travel notice placed was for Dec 27 and Dec 28 travel but not for the 29th, so she could not accommodate our request, except if we wanted to pay change fees and fare differences that would amount to almost $2000. I replied that the weather reports from YUL and YYZ (where AA4444 was originating) looked bleak for Dec 29th and wouldn’t it be more prudent to rebook us now while there was seat availability? She replied that her hands were tied.

    Of course, the next day, when the AA travel notice was extended to YUL for Dec 29, all flights to JFK were full/oversold.

    So we took precautions: on Dec 29th, we arrived at YUL very early (3p) for our 5:55p flight (due in to JFK at 7:30p) and agonizingly watched as the delays mounted: 6:40…7:40…8:10 and we knew we would not make our 9:30 JFK-LAX flight.

    We arrived at JFK at 9:40p and the agent there rebooked us on AA183 leaving Sunday Dec 30th at 3:45p.m. She kindly explained that since our mis-connection was due to weather, we were not entitled to any type of hotel accommodation. “You should have been on the noon flight from Montreal – given yourself plenty of time,” she ironically stated. “Next time you will know not to book a connection so tight in December.”

    At that point, I started checking JFK hotels and found they were all booked – there wasn’t one that had two double beds or two rooms available. (We were a party of four.) I ended up spending close to $400 to stay in downtown New York at last minute, not factoring in two $65 cab rides.

    At 10 a.m. on Dec 30, to add insult to injury, I logged on to AA.com to check in for our 3:45p flight, only to discover that the four boarding passes I held in my hand for flight AA183 were not showing up. I called the Exec Plat Line and was told that “you are not ticketed for that flight.” I explained that I was looking at four boarding passes and she replied, “Doesn’t matter. You are not ticketed so you are not on that flight.” I asked her what she could do and she replied, “Nothing. Just go to the airport and hope.”

    I said thank you and called back and got a different agent who said, “That’s horrible. So sorry. Let me ticket you right now.” And she did.

    But if I had a) not checked AA.com, who knows what would have happened or b) if I did not call back, who knows what would happen?

    I’m now on AA183 – using GoGo Inflight – and wanted to relate to you how frustrating this whole ordeal was. I tried to be proactive at almost every step, from securing an earlier flight when seats were available to obtaining boarding passes the night before – yet I was continually thwarted in the process.

    If this letter helps you shore up your travel notice/warnings/process, than it was worth sending. As an Executive Platinum member, I have a vested interest in a healthy and prosperous American Airlines and I hope you view this missive in that light.
     
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  2. HaveMilesWillTravel
    • Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

    tl;dr

    ;)

    Have you sent it already?
     
  3. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    Just sent.
     
    Kalboz likes this.
  4. HaveMilesWillTravel
    • Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

    Hopefully it will be processed by someone who isn't as ADHD-damaged as I apparently am :)
     
    wrxmom likes this.
  5. DestinationDavid
    • Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

    It's not just you. I haven't read it yet and can already tell you this letter is way too long.

    OP, you'd have been better served writing a short, concise letter explaining what happened and outlining what you wanted from AA. Two paragraphs, max.

    I haven't read this yet but will give it a try later tonight to see what actually happened and to see if I agree your complaint is legitimate. :)
     
    wrxmom, LETTERBOY and flyforawg like this.
  6. estnet
    • Original Member

    estnet Gold Member

    Traveler read the weather predictions saw a problem (before AA processed it), called and tried to change flights to head off a disaster -wasn't allowed to without paying $2k. When AA did process the weather all seats on the flights he wanted were taken.
    Sadly, happens all the time. We're often much more on top of possible problems than the airlines are but can't make the necessary changes - the only way I see around this is to build in extra connection time when booking in the winter "just in case", once the weather hits it's often too late.
    As to issuing boarding passes without issuing the ticket - both the agent who did it and the first one on the phone who refused to correct it should be in for a "retraining" session.
     
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  7. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    Destination David: Who cares how long the complaint is? It can not take more than a minute for someone to read. But if you would like to send me an edited version that would achieve its purpose, feel free.

    I did not ask for compensation because, according to AA's guidelines, I was not entitled to anything. I was just trying to outline a systemwide failure in accommodating an elite passenger that hopefully someone in the AA management chain will latch onto so it can be corrected.

    I was also hoping that someone here would be able to suggest something constructive that I could have/should have done -- other than pointing out the lack of brevity of the original complaint.
     
  8. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    ESTNET ==> Well said.
     
    Kalboz likes this.
  9. DestinationDavid
    • Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

    Your lengthy narrative is an issue with regards to clarity, not brevity. The more you cram into the letter, the more clouded your story becomes.

    I've been active in online forums (MP, Facebook, FT, etc...) for awhile and have seen hundreds of complaints just like yours. The common wisdom on complaints is to drop all the needless narrative and be very direct and concise with the information. I was providing genuine feedback on the quality of your letter, but if you don't feel it's helpful and that it wasn't constructive, I'm sorry and I'll refrain from providing comments or advice on your posts in this thread in the future.

    As for compensation, I noted that I had not read your letter yet. Most complaints such as yours are accompanied by a request for compensation, and it's best to outline what you'd like to see from the airline in that case.

    Regardless, hopefully it worked out for the best and you get a satisfactory resolution to your missive.
     
    HaveMilesWillTravel likes this.
  10. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    I've enjoyed your posts and generous input in this site and would appreciate any comments, both constructive or otherwise, anytime. Nothing personal!
     
    Kalboz likes this.
  11. DestinationDavid
    • Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

    It wasn't personal, I threw in a smiley on my first response because I wanted to note I was being friendly. ;)

    I was just noting that if you felt I was being mean-spiriting, I would keep my comments to myself. I'm heading off to see some friends now but will try to read your post when I get home.
     
  12. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    Sounds good--was going to post over at FT but trying to post here instead and support the site
     
    Kalboz likes this.
  13. HaveMilesWillTravel
    • Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

    So this aspect (when I eventually did read the OP) surprised me. I know that a PNR doesn't mean a reservation (I have had that situation myself where Travelocity didn't ticket an AA reservation; almost cost me a cruise or a fortune). But I thought that check-in and thus boarding pass issuance would be the time when this is discovered by the computer. Can agents (or the kiosks) issue boarding passes without a ticket number being associated with the PNR? If so, does that serve any purpose? And does this differ between airlines?
     
  14. DestinationDavid
    • Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

    Had some time this morning to finally read through your post and here is what I walk away with.
    • Certainly not the ideal travel situation and certainly very frustrating for your family. I'm not envious of your experience!
    • The weather situation is frustrating but I'm not sure you have much of a case with anything that happened there. The AAgent is correct that until AA issues a travel waiver, there isn't anything they can do to waive fees to rebook you. It would be nice if AA actived the waiver earlier, but I doubt your letter/situation is going to do much to sway AA in that department. They have a complex system in place to calculate when to issue the waiver.
    • Similarly, the lack of lodgings would have happened regardless of the carrier you were on. They don't accommodate you for weather related cancelations and delays. They might offer you a voucher for a distressed passenger rate at a hotel, lay out some cots for those who are overnighting at the airport, or perhaps hand out some snacks/water to those who are stuck, but putting up thousands of passengers at hotels isn't going to happen. You'd have faced the same issue on UA, US, or DL.
    The one issue I'd say you have solid footing on is the boarding passes. I actually encountered a similar issue this year on January 1. A flight I was on was canceled and I was rebooked on a later flight. I was issued a boarding pass with a seat assignment but when I attempted to board the flight the scanner rejected my boarding pass. Turns out, despite having a valid boarding pass with a seat assignment, I was not correctly ticketed on the flight according to the GA. A quick call to the EXP line had me rebooked on a US Airways flight connecting in CLT to my destination. Not ideal, very frustrating, and handled very poorly by everyone at AA except the EXP agent. I never got to the bottom of why that happened, but I did send a note to AA to express my displeasure.

    I'm not 100% sure what happened with your booking, but if it was similar, I'd say AA dropped the ball on that part. Certainly with regards to how the first EXP agent handled your request for assistance.

    I'm curious, did your boarding passes for AA183 have seat assignments?
     
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  15. JonNYC
    • Original Member

    JonNYC Silver Member

    Agree with everything in this post
     
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  16. Captain Oveur
    • Original Member

    Captain Oveur Gold Member

    Just another endorsement of short, concise and to the point.

    Sure, people CAN wait and read the letters, but attention spans are usually short. Also, you're not the only one writing in a complaint letter. If the letter has merit and the airline wants to follow up on something, they will contact you (speaking from previous experience).
     
  17. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    They did have seat assignments. Just like you. Someone just dropped the ball.

    As for compensation, except for this error of rebooking on a non-ticket, I don't think I stand much of a chance of anything, although I really can't understand why the AA Explat Agent couldn't have put me on the wide-open noon flight instead of trying to upcharge me $2000 for the temerity of wanting to leave six hours earlier so I can make my connection. Lesson learned, obviously.
     
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  18. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    I'm sure I could have said it in 371 words instead of 671 -- so point well taken.
     
    Kalboz likes this.
  19. mattsteg
    • Original Member

    mattsteg Gold Member

    The person at AA reading it. They spend their days reading and responding to such things. They are likely evaluated based on volume of letters they work through. The moment that they see something like "My story begins amidst..." they're more likely to shoot out a canned response to pass the buck to the next agent than anything else.

    The person reading a complain letter does not have an interest in hearing your life's story. If they feel like that's what they're getting, they'll probably cut their losses and move on to the next letter.
     
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  20. malikguy

    malikguy Silver Member

    I feel your pain and it sucks! I agree with David, there are situations where the world wasn't being fair and where AA truly did drop the ball, but I also think that it goes back to you being EXP. With being EXP, you should have at least felt that AA tried just a bit harder to accommodate you with your foul situation since I would imagine that they would consider you one of their more "valuable" customers. You are loyal and from reading your letter, I personally feel that you felt like you were just "another" customer in some respects.

    In regards to brevity, I do agree in some respects. I do have to say that I have been impressed with AA guest relations as they address each issue in my messages and they are personalized messages (not canned responses) so I would assume no matter how long the message, they are trained to read in entirety even as mind numbing as it may be. Regardless, some extra information is good, but don't try to write a book. I did however find your story very enjoyably and it was well written. ;)

    I'd like to offer some possible alternative approaches to the situation.

    1) Keep your message to less than 1,500 characters as this is what is provided on the customer relations form on AA.com. I would also recommend using this form because I'm sure it is easier for AA to respond to since it is formatted with the data points that AA needs.

    Email AA Customer Relations:
    https://www.aa.com/contactAA/viewEmailFormAccess.do?eventName=customerRelations

    2) You're EXP, call them! You have this perk as an elite. They are open from 8 AM - 5 PM CST, Mon - Fri. This way you can speak to a live guest relations agent and you won't have to worry about that ADHD issues (hopefully :p).

    Good luck and sorry to hear about your misfortune. Let us know when you hear back from AA as they do promise to respond to every message they receive. :)
     
    Kalboz likes this.
  21. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    Yes, my life story! That is what I was going for!

    Okay, well, it was sent -- long-winded and all -- and I'll report back if I receive a response.
     
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  22. DestinationDavid
    • Original Member

    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

    Yup, it's certainly frustrating. But when the AAgent would attempt to rebook you, the system will attempt to charge the fees. If they attempt to drop those fees, they'll have to indicate why they were dropped. Without the travel waiver being issued, the AAgent has nothing to leverage to waive the fees. Their hands are just as tied as yours are in that situation.

    Your real issue is with the timing of AA's travel waiver. You'd ideally want to see AA allow flexibility much earlier than they had. Most travelers facing severe weather would likely appreciate the same thing. I wonder if AA's decision to extend the waiver to include your travel date was around the same time as, or much later than, other airlines flying into and out of YUL?
     
  23. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    I may call them if I don't receive anything -- and I do appreciate your reply. (I did use their form.)
     
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  24. THREEA4ME
    • Original Member

    THREEA4ME Silver Member

    Excellent analysis.

    My beef is in the spirit of the travel waiver. Some will use it to abuse the system but all I was asking for was same day change without fees. As an Explat, one would think they would offer that -- given that the weather for day of travel was ominous and proved correct.
     
    Kalboz likes this.
  25. dayone
    • Original Member

    dayone Silver Member

    The person who reads it and will decide its disposition.
     
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